As the racing season starts to get into full swing, with F1 returning in just a week, the BTCC season under a month away, as well as the start of the IndyCar season, along with Formula E already in full swing, it’s time to look at how motorsport has the ability to turn the casual viewer into some of the most passionate sports fans across the world.
The love of motorsport normally starts at a young age, with most kids being introduced to watching F1 for example by their parents, who either had an interest themselves or were keen to get their kids interested into sport at an early age and it’s from there that the connection with motorsport starts to form, whether it be the speed, the racing or the noise.
Every motorsport fan will have their own unique story of how they fell in love with racing. Personally, I started my journey in the mid 2000’s, casually watching F1 with my Dad, and the colourful blue and yellow Renault up against the Ferrari in 2006. However, my first memory, and the one that stands out the most from my childhood, is unsurprisingly, the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix and the infamous “IS THAT GLOCK?” moment, which planted the seeds of the love for F1 in my life, as from then on I wanted to watch more and more F1, more and more regularly, not wanting to miss a race from 2009 to the present day.
But it wasn’t just F1 that got me hooked, as I was also starting to watch BTCC racing around 2009-2010, a main and stand out memory coming at Donington 2011, where Jason Plato famously flipped his Chevrolet. And just like with F1, after this I wanted more and more of BTCC in my life, and the passion that was planted back in 2008 grew and grew and became a stronger force in my life.
And that’s the thing with the racing bug, once it gets you, you can’t escape it, it becomes a part of your life and will always be there, I went from a kid casually watching the odd F1 race, to having an incredible passion for motorsport, now regularly watching F1, BTCC, Formula E, MotoGP, WRC, WEC, IMSA etc, basically if it has wheels, an engine and goes fast, I’m interested.
Now this is a rather relevant subject in the world of Formula 1 right now, with Liberty Media trying to make F1 more enjoyable and enticing for younger viewers, as viewing statistics for this demographic currently do not look good. That’s important, because if the sport is unable to gain the new fans, and create the same love for motorsport as it did for me back in 2008, it could lose its space in sports hierarchy as the youth may go elsewhere to find something to enjoy.
This ties into the ongoing discussion over free-to-air coverage of F1. This is important because the more motorsport that is available to the masses, means there is a greater chance of more people casually finding it on TV or online and falling in love with it. This is why BTCC always brings in the masses in terms of viewership because it is free-to-air and easily accessible to viewers.
Not everyone can afford to pay for some coverage, and this is probably a contributing factor in why the younger audience is being turned away from F1, and why viewing figures are getting worse. It was even reported that compared to the 8.9 million people who watched Lewis Hamilton win his first World Championship in 2008, only 1.2 million watched him claim his 5th title in Mexico, and if this is true it is a problem, because if the numbers are getting lower and lower, it means there are less and less young people getting that motorsport bug, or just getting it from somewhere else.
Motorsport is one of the greatest at inspiring and capturing a young audience; how do you think all the current drivers, mechanics, team principles etc across the whole sport got to where they are today? By being captured by the motorsport bug, most likely at a young age, and because the racing bug is one of the strongest and most influential, it lead them to wanting to be a part of it, because they loved it so much.
So they started Karting, or learning mechanics or aerodynamics, or doing something like this, writing and journalism, in a hope that one day they would make it into the world of motorsport, some with a target of a certain sport, F1, WEC etc, but others just to be in the circle in general, to be around the thing they grew up loving and the thing that has driven them in life. It may be tough to make it into motorsports in any way, but if you do get there, it is an incredible feeling to be a part, even the smallest cog in the machine, is for most, a childhood dream come true.
It’s safe to say anyone reading this probably has the motorsport bug, whether you know it or not, even if you casually watch the odd race here and there, why do you think you keep going back to it? Cause deep down, in the back of your mind, the seed of racing has already been sown.
As long as the motorsport bug can be caught, then racing is in very safe hands for a while to come. When and how did you start your motorsport journey? Let us know in the comments!